- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2006

Just as Chinese President Hu Jintao took the podium yesterday at a welcoming ceremony on the White House South Lawn — opening with a pledge to “enhance dialogues” — the leader of the world’s largest communist nation got an example of American-style freedom of speech and dialogue.

“Stop persecuting Falun Gong,” screamed a woman from across the lawn, standing atop a scaffolding for photographers.

“President Bush, stop him from killing Falun Gong,” she yelled, just a few minutes after Mr. Bush had urged Mr. Hu to allow his people “the freedom to assemble, to speak freely and to worship.”

The disturbance stunned both presidents and prompted Mr. Hu to stop midsentence. Thousands of people who had come to watch the pomp and circumstance of a state visit — complete with 21-gun salute, a fife-and-drum corps in powdered wigs and an honor guard holding dozens of flags — fell silent.

Eyes turned quickly to the top of the camera stand, more than 100 feet across the lawn and directly opposite the podium where both presidents stood. The woman, identified as Wenyi Wang, 47, had pressed herself in the center of the high stand, and uniformed Secret Service officers could not get to her quickly.

As she continued to scream at the top of her lungs, Mr. Bush leaned in toward an expressionless Mr. Hu and said, “You’re OK.”

The surprised Chinese leader then continued his remarks, talking about trade, security, energy and praising American ideals, but saying nothing on freedom of speech.

Stephen Gregory, a spokesman for the Falun Gong-affiliated newspaper the Epoch Times, said Dr. Wang had received a press credential through the newspaper. He identified her as a doctor with a specialty in pathology and a Falun Gong practitioner based in New York.

“We expected her to act as a reporter; we didn’t expect her to protest. None of us had any idea that Dr. Wang was planning this,” Mr. Gregory said.

Dr. Wang screamed for fully three minutes, and at one point unfurled a yellow banner emblazoned with the name of the spiritual movement condemned by the Chinese government as evil.

Officers had to come all the way from the Rose Garden — making their way across the parade field — and could not get up to her spot in the stand quickly. When they did, she held fast to a metal bar, yelling for at least 30 seconds more as Mr. Hu spoke about how “the Americans are optimistic, full of enterprising drive, down to earth, and innovative.” As they tried to whisk her away across the top row of the stand, she got caught up in a tangle of ladders, tripods and camera gear, shaking the whole riser and threatening to send some photographers tumbling off.

The entire episode was noted in the official White House transcript simply as “(audience interruption).”

Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin said yesterday that Dr. Wang had been arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. A charge of intimidating or disrupting foreign officials was also being considered. Mr. Mackin said she had gained access to the event with a temporary White House pass and had been cleared through all the appropriate levels of security.

When the two leaders adjourned from the South Lawn for an Oval Office meeting, Mr. Bush expressed his regret for the incident.

“He just said, ‘This was unfortunate, and I’m sorry it happened,’” said Dennis Wilder, acting senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council staff.

Mr. Wilder said Mr. Hu was gracious in accepting Mr. Bush’s apology. The two leaders did not mention the episode again in several hours of meetings.

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